Arts and Music

Inc. Settling Down but Still Shaking Things Up

Hamilton Artists Inc is setting up permanently in the former Jerry's Man Shop at James and Cannon.

By Amy Kenny
Published November 27, 2007

At 32 years of age, Hamilton Artists Inc. is finally ready to settle down, but don't worry - that doesn't mean they won't continue to shake things up.

The publicly-funded, member-run arts association has been a bit of a transient since its inception in 1976. Inc. couch-surfed the city's streets for years, renting space on Bay, Barton, Vine and Colbourne, but this year, it's growing up and setting up permanently in the former Jerry's Man Shop at James and Cannon.

When Jerry's went on the market after closing down this past winter, Inc. immediately saw it for what it was - the perfect place to put down roots and promote their presence in the thriving James North arts community.

Since Jerry's carried a hefty price tag, Inc. turned to Hamilton City Council in the hopes of securing an early release of the $750,000 Future Fund grant for which they had been approved in September of 2006.

When their request was denied, an anonymous buyer purchased the building in trust for the organization until Inc. could afford to buy the building back outright.

Located at the very corner where James Street's glut of galleries begins, Jerry's serves as a gateway to Hamilton's most vibrant arts hub and Inc. is the ideal sentinel.

The Canadian Art Experience

Inc. focuses on the Canadian artistic experience as seen through the eyes of emerging, established and aspiring artists.

The organization aims to support and expose innovative and forward-thinking Canadian art. One of the ways they do this is by hosting regular workshops, events and talks on relevant topics including where artists can find grant information and how to write professional grant proposals.

A nominal membership fee grants artists unlimited access to these events and gives them a voice when it comes to programming.

Each year the organization receives more than 125 submissions from Canadian artists vying for one of the gallery's six to eight main space shows.

These exhibitions come in formats as varied as film, music, video and offsite installations. The only criteria is that the work must fulfill Inc.'s mandate of promoting contemporary work, bringing attention to new ideas, inspiring discussion and offering patrons something outside of the average art experience.

In 2004, for example, BC-based artist Marianne Corless exhibited Further, a collection of iconic Canadian images made entirely from fur. It was a review board, comprised entirely of Inc. members, that decided to include this show in the year's programming.

Hands-On Experience

This kind of hands-on experience is part of what makes Inc. such a fantastic training ground for upcoming artists. You can't just walk into the Art Gallery of Hamilton and ask for a show. Even in the art world you need to go through the proper channels, cross your T's and dot your I's.

The close-knit community at Inc. makes for a rich, practical learning environment. Sasha Klein, a third-year fine arts student at McMaster University, is currently on a co-op placement with Inc. Not only has her involvement with the organization given her a much better idea of how the local arts scene works, it's taught her basic art industry protocol including how to submit proper proposals.

It's also given her marketable gallery skills. While most of her day-to-day work with Inc. is administrative, Klein was recently asked to curate her own small show for their front wall space.

From the West was a collection of experimental art pieces by her fellow McMaster classmates. "Inc. affords artists who would not typically be able to show their work through commercial galleries an opportunity to show that work," she says.

"They're more focused on community and at working hard to build the local arts scene."

A Critical Mass of Partnerships

"Arts communities are very complex and Hamilton is also truly that," says Donna Lee MacDonald, the administrative director and one of only three paid staff members at Inc.

"I think what is happening in the arts, not only on James Street, but in the arts in the city in general is a critical mass of partnerships and the understanding that together we are a stronger more vital source of activity in the city."

Case in point is the current relationship between Inc. and the Threshold School of Building, which is helping with renovations to Jerry's 7,000 square feet of retail space.

Some of their more major projects include converting basement space into an apartment for a brand new artist-in-residence program and slicing the former clothing shop up into a large main gallery and a smaller members' gallery.

The remaining indoor space will be converted into offices while the outdoor courtyard behind the building will become a sculpture garden.

Renovations are expected to cost over $1 million and the move will happen in three separate stages over the course of this coming year, but Inc. hopes to be operating completely out of Jerry's by the fall of 2008.

Amy Kenny graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2004. She is currently a Hamilton-based freelance writer who loves the arts and the outdoors. In addition to Raise the Hammer, she writes for H Magazine, The Corktown Crier and TorontoPlus. She cycles everywhere, all the time and urges you to do the same.

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By g. (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2007 at 01:50:13

The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines a "glut" as: "a supply of some commodity which greatly exceeds demand."

Is there, in your opinion, truly a "glut of galleries" on james street north, or, did you just think that that word sounded cool?

I only point out your possibly fallacious diction as, as a journalist, you should know better and that the negative connotation of the word is in contrast to the positive tone surrounding it. Otherwise, it is an interesting piece.

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By Pedant (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2007 at 03:13:27

With all due respect, "g.", pedantry is best left to the pedants.

I note with a modicum of pleasure that your comment is semantically incorrect as well as needlessly vituperative. A "glut" can also refer to "an abundance" or a "full supply".

This more positive definition is reflected both in its use as a transitive verb ("to feed or fill to satiety", "to consume immodestly") and in its synonyms (abundance, exuberance, plenitude, saturation, surfeit).

Perhaps you need to invest in a more comprehensive dictionary.

One more point to consider if you wish to pursue the business of correcting people: it is generally considered poor form to repeat a word, as in: "...your possibly fallacious diction as, as a journalist..."

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 28, 2007 at 09:38:11

great article here. A couple questions/suggestion:

  • will there be a cafe anywhere in the new project?
  • will anything really eye-catching and artistic be done at the James/Cannon corner of the site to grab attention of those passing by, as well as make a visual statement about the neighbourhood?

I'd love to see more public art along James...this might be a great chance to do something like that.

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By g. (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2007 at 23:40:04

first off, my apologies to the author if my tone seemed a little harsh in my criticism of her word choice. i meant it as just that, a questioning of the use of one word in an otherwise rather fine article. my intent was not in any way to attack the author but rather to point out that as Mark Twain once wrote "the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter-- it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." And yes, i know i get more excited about these things than i should sometimes but i really care about language and its rigourous use.

And as for your comment, and i respond entirely in the spirit of amused sport, pedant, thank you, but alas, i am not a journalist, only a kitchen chair in the living room critic. with regards to my repetitive use of "as," i would be very curious to know what you use as reference to your critisim of this particular point of style. my grade school teacher maintained that it was poor form to start a sentence with the word "but," but that was rather an indication of a fifth grader's ability to complete a sentence as opposed to the possibility of creating a worthy sentence with such a technique. perhaps you feel this way because you have limited exposure to authors who successfully manipulate this "form" you speak of.

as to your insinuation that my dictionary is deficient, few this side of the American border would suggest that the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, a work of over half a million definitions and almost 3800 pages is a slight pamphlet of reference. Unfortunately, i had left my full 26 volume Oxford in my other pants. and not to belabour the point but there is a big difference between being "comprehensive" and being correct.

regardless, i think your uncited point about other possible definitions of glut makes my point anyway. being quite familiar with the art galleries on james street north i can also say that very few people who care about art would say that there are enough galleries. there is still a shocking lack of proper commercial galleries. it is still a very fragile community. besides, glut also means, according to the oxford shorter, "the amount of liquid swallowed at a gulp," or "a wedge." I doubt, however, that that is what the author wished to connote. i could continue but even i would get bored.

as to jason's comment, it would be great to have a cafe included in the redevelopment of that corner! I have seen artisits' run centres in Glasgow and london that include a cafe very successfully. Terrific place to grab a snack, see who's around and be exposed to some fine art in the process. If it is not included perhaps Raise the Hammer could put out a plea to the general reading public for someone, anyone, to open a cafe somewhere between Mulberry and Wilson. that area is ripe for somewhere for people to congregate in addition to Mixed Media. let's give Dave a break! he deserves it.

with regards to public art on the street, i believe there was talk of trying to secure time and space on the billboards for artists' use for part of the year. how cool would that be? And perhaps the mayor, if he gets his way, could include space for public art in his plan to turn the gore into a pedestrian mall.

Again, to the author, please forgive the unintended strident tone of my original comment. i was just hoping to point out that very small words can leave a perhaps unintended impression on otherwise great efforts.

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By Amy Kenny (registered) | Posted November 29, 2007 at 16:20:31

Partly, I used the word "glut" in reference to its handful of similar, alternative definitions including "a full supply", "an excessive supply of goods", "to supply something to excess" and "a quality of overabundance".
Partly I just dig alliteration. Either way, I think most people will understand the general inference is that James Street is loaded with art and either way, thanks for the AWESOME welcome to RTH. Oh that all my writing is so warmly received. Here's something to keep you busy while you're waiting to trash talk the next thing I write: http://www.cracked.com/article_15664_9-w...

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By g. (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2007 at 02:53:35

ah, amy, touche!
too funny, thanks for the link. i would love to be able to admit that i was not crying tears of laughter while reading the commentary on 9 misused words but then i would be misrepresenting myself. great stuff. we need, well, at least i need more intelligent humour with regards to the english language. i look forward to reading, and ripping more of your writing.

p.s. i am almost always able to ameliorate amazing alliterations which appose accuracy.

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